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Bayview Yards designs released

By Francis Moran

It was freezing cold, often quite dark, and always utterly decrepit at the Bayview Yards a couple of weeks ago, but it didn’t take an imagination any more potent than the woeful propane heaters that were bravely trying to heat up the chilly space to share the city’s vision that this broken-down and vividly graffiti-tagged former works garage will soon be transformed into a funky, design-rich, entrepreneur-friendly, sunshiny bright and — most critically — welcoming space for Ottawa’s startup and technology communities.

Bayview Yards Innovation Centre draft conceptual design plan

We’ve had a few posts on this blog about the city’s plans to turn the old Bayview Yards into an innovation complex for Ottawa’s startup communities, but earlier this month saw the first chance many people had to eyeball the actual space, as well as the enticing draft conceptual design plan developed by local design firm protoypeD.

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Ottawa’s new innovation complex needs lots of parking. And maybe a few other things, too

Ian Scott presents Ottawa's plans for new innovation complex at Bayview YardsBy Francis Moran

Once they got past an inexplicable preoccupation with parking, participants at a focus group session last night had some good input for Ottawa’s economic development folks who are planning an ambitious innovation complex just west of the city’s downtown core. Ian Scott, an economic development officer in the city manager’s office, gave a presentation on the proposed new complex, slated as part of a complete community development plan for the near-derelict Bayview Yards, and then solicited feedback from the 50 or so people who turned out.

Suggestions ranged from the bizarre — one participant, harking back to days when out-of-town customers had nowhere nearby to stay when they visited Ottawa tech companies in Kanata, insisted a hotel had to be part of the development — to the obvious — restaurants and coffee shops. But folks also called for an inclusive facility where startups could launch and grow, where support services would be available, where a critical mass would build such that people, both tenants and others, would want to hang out, and where — and this was my chief contribution — serendipitous collisions could happen between those entrepreneurs and all elements of the startup ecosystem.

A lot of the discussion, though, focused on the negative in a way, I have to say — In fact, I did say — that is so bloody typical of this city.

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Ottawa’s proposed innovation complex suffers Ottawa’s familiar inferiority complex

con027601_123462741By Francis Moran

When Ottawa’s newly reconstituted economic development agency Invest Ottawa earlier this year unveiled its proposal to convert a disused former city workshop in the Bayview Yards into a hub for the city’s technology and startup communities, I thought it was one of the boldest initiatives from an organization whose hallmark, at least in its previous incarnations, was not exactly one of bold and innovative thinking. I have long looked covetously at Kitchener-Waterloo’s Communitech Hub, Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District or Campus London in the British city’s east end, and I welcomed the IO effort to create a similar locus and anchor point for Ottawa’s considerable but largely fractured technology communities.

(And I use the plural of community advisedly here. Ottawa’s tech sector is an amalgam of communities that, best efforts of many people notwithstanding, continues to fracture between the older, west-end companies focused mainly on communications infrastructure and the younger, downtown companies working on software and apps.) Read More

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To serve the entrepreneur, you need to think like an entrepreneur

photo_2254702_resize_articleLeo Valiquette

This may seem like an odd topic to raise in the early days of August. After all, it was a story that first broke in January and doesn’t seem to have garnered much media attention in the months since. But after my recent trip to Kitchener-Waterloo and immersing myself in the environment of the Communitech Hub, it seems that some discourse should be attempted on a subject that has perhaps provoked too little attention so far from mainstream media.

I am referring to plans by the City of Ottawa and Invest Ottawa to construct at Bayview Yards west of the Canadian War Museum an “innovation complex” that would repurpose an old 150,000-square-foot city workshop (pictured). According to a city staff report from January, the complex “would help to meet the growing demands of new entrepreneurs in Ottawa” and be modelled after Communitech and the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto.

The site is nestled in a rather forlorn light industrial area characterized by weeds growing from cracks in the concrete. However, this area is the focus of the city’s Bayview Community Design Plan.

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It takes more than bricks and mortar to build a regional economy

By Denzil Doyle

A few years ago, a group of hockey enthusiasts from southwestern Ontario embarked on an ambitious campaign to establish an NHL hockey club in their area. A nasty comment that went around at the time was that it would never happen because if it did, Toronto would want one as well.

That joke came to mind when I was asked to comment on the enthusiasm for the MaRS Centre, a Toronto-based innovation centre, only this time the shoe is on the other foot; MaRS appears to be a successful business accelerator that is being emulated across the country. In fact, it appears to have been looked at in some detail by the people who played a key role in the planning of the Ottawa Innovation Centre, to be located at the Bayview yards area.

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